The Avion My Uncle Flew

avion

‘The Avion My Uncle Flew’ by Cyrus Fisher, 1946

I have been meaning to review this book for ages, as it was definitely a family favourite, and probably our top literature choice of 2015.

The book was recommended to us by a friend as a super way to introduce the French language at the same time as studying the post-war period through children’s historical fiction.

The story is written in such a clever way – the main character is sent to his uncle’s village in France to convalesce and recover after breaking his leg back home in America, and strikes a deal with his parents that, if he manages to be walking again and if he has learned to speak French by the end of the summer, they will get him a fancy new bicycle.

Johnny stays with his uncle in a boarding house in the village because their home had been destroyed in the war, but the uncle is working on making an aeroplane of his own design, to reverse their fortunes, and so he does what he can to help as his leg improves.

So as we follow the story of his recovery, we also follow his learning the language. We start off by learning the odd single word in a sentence, and by the end of the book there are whole pages in French.

In addition, the story is interwoven with a spy mystery and adventure as Johnny discovers that not all is as it seems in the sleepy French village in the mountains.

“Seldom do we find so happy a combination of charm of
Style, local color, humor and thumping good adventure as is set forth in this tale.” – School Library Journal

Lots of fun! Highly recommended as a read-aloud.

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Plans for September

After going to and fro in my mind over what to do – follow the national curriculum more closely with a view to doing GCSEs? Concede defeat over the severe dyslexia and put them all in school (it was a serious consideration, but none of us want to go that route), or go back to our Sonlight-style, literature-based lifestyle.

I wondered seriously about starting GCSEs at home, but again, nobody really wants that. We have found two possible options for maths and English post-16, both of which are free, so I think there’s no rush for that. Heck, I’m doing GCSE maths myself next year, and I’m 44! 🙂

I decided to go back to the literature-based lifestyle. I call it a lifestyle, because when we were doing Sonlight, we weren’t cooped up at home or in the classroom the way we have been recently, trying to squeeze ourselves into the National Curriculum boxes (although now I look back, I wonder why?! It has been miserable for all of us, and really, worse than unproductive, it turned them off learning).

On the contrary, the books we found were always portable, it meant that we could be out and about everyday – at the woods, at the beach, visiting with other home educators, whatever really, and we could still get the ‘work’ done, and it didn’t really feel like work (except on my throat which was known to need a constant supply of hot tea!)

Despite eldest’s difficulties with the system (possible Asperger’s without a firm diagnosis or Statement), his knowledge base was much larger than my own when I left school, so I’m confident that Sonlight gave him a good all-round education. The skills will come, but they have come frustratingly slowly.

My kids are just bright, late starters 🙂

The next question was, do we go on with Sonlight itself or another literature-based curriculum I have used in between, Heart of Dakota.

I actually decided to do both: I will be doing two levels anyway – we’re going to finally go back and finish the Sonlight read-alouds from core C over the summer, and then go on to start core D. We never did cores D and E first time round because they’re based on American history, but we always felt we had missed out on all those fantastic books!

coreD

So, as always, we will do a hotch potch – we’ll intersperse the American history with some British history and geography. But we’ll be moving away from the textbooks and back to the literature. They recall it so much more fully that way.

heart-of-dakota-world-geography

For my daughter, I decided to do Heart of Dakota’s World Geography year. The titles look really interesting, and I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.

I rather enjoyed HoD’s early grades, which I used (mainly for language arts) for my two youngest alongside Sonlight’s early grades, although we didn’t do all the books (HoD are much more Amero-centric than Sonlight, and more religious! But I like it because it has a much more Charlotte Mason style) but I skipped the first three higher levels in the ‘Hearts for Him Through High School’ series (although I have the guides if I want to go back to them).

300

And, because I am a book addict, I also ordered Sonlight’s core 300 (20th Century World History for high school) instructor’s guide, but not the books. I thought I would get the books gradually as we need them. And I’ll read these myself even if my daughter’s not interested. (I had been toying with doing their Church History core for myself but we hadn’t done the 20th Century in any great depth so I thought we should do this first) I rather think she will be interested anyway, and I know my eldest will love them.

So there will be a whole lot of reading going on in this house, and out of this house next year, all being well!

But as ever, the strict following of guides and manuals, ticking off every box, and doing every assignment, probably won’t happen.

We’ve tried that, and it sucks the joy out of it all, and it kind of defeats the whole purpose of home educating in the first place, which is freedom to enjoy learning.

For science, we’ll carry on with Apologia but I think we may set aside some more time for hands-on experiments. That’s one think I may go back to the National Curriculum for, but as I said many years ago, I will use it (as I’ll use the HoD manuals and the Sonlight instructor’s guides) more as a curriculum bank of ideas, a tool rather than a master. We won’t allow ourselves to be straight-jacketed by curriculum.

When things start to arrive, I’ll post again with details about the individual books and resources.

So I’m excited right now! We haven’t had a ‘Box Day’ for a few years now! How about you? What are you planning? What resources will you be using? What would you like to learn this year?

Meanwhile…

We have sick little people this morning (and I feel as though I might be going down with it too!), so any routine I might have managed usually has gone out of the window. We’ve moved downstairs after stripping the beds and cleaning up, but nobody has much energy for ‘lessons’ or any of the activities we normally do. So we’ve watched some TV (with less educational value than I would normally aim for) and now we’re just going to settle down with some library books that we took out last week.

I have been trying all morning to load the Goodreads website (and playing about with my blog format with a view to loading my books into a wordpress app directly into the blog) without success. I’m not sure if it’s down or whether it just doesn’t like me (I do often seem to have that effect on gadgets and technology). So if that won’t work I’ll need to find an alternative way to list or display our #300PB books. There are no obvious wordpress apps for Shelfari or Library Thing, but maybe somebody knows a way round that?

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We’ve read a few already: Small by Jessica Meserve, Rough by Jane Hissey (part of the Old Bear and Friends series), and a few others before we started the challenge (shall I list them?) The children themselves are absolutely loving an interactive adventure comic book called ‘Meanwhile‘ by Jason Shiga, subtitled ‘Pick any path, 3,856 story possibilities’. This is an old favourite that we have had out from the library a few times, and I think I will end up having to buy our own copy as it is so beloved!

We would normally go to the library on a Monday (or try the mobile library that comes fortnightly) but high temperatures will keep us at home today.

What do you do when you have ‘sick’ homeschool days?

Picture Book Reading Challenge

I’ve just heard about this lovely challenge: to read 300 picture books to your children, in a year.

Since we are starting in February, our allocation is reduced to 275.

It’s only ’11 books per fortnight’, so that seems fairly manageable.

http://childledchaos.me.uk/2013/12/31/picture-book-reading-challenge-2014/

I used to have pages on Goodreads, Shelfari, and Library Thing (back when we had internet 3 years ago!) So I will check them out again when I have a chance.

Of course, since my children are older, I may have to include books other than picture books. I have been aiming for one book weekly, but life has just been whizzing by too fast to actually manage to fit that much reading in.

We keep trying though! (We’re currently still reading “The Avion My Uncle Flew”)

I think perhaps a trip to the library is in order! 🙂